Tuesday, October 31, 2006

SF Chronicle: Bechtel Leaving Iraq, After 52 Worker Deaths

The hellhole known as Iraq suffers another setback, a big one as a matter of fact, and the damn GOP wants voters to worry over a mangled joke by John Kerry. Will the last Bechtel contractor or worker to leave Iraq please turn out the light? Oh, wait a minute. I forgot the lights are not working in Baghdad.

From the SF Chronicle of November 1:

Bechtel Corp. went to Iraq three years ago to help rebuild a nation torn by war. Since then, 52 of its people have been killed and much of its work sabotaged as Iraq dissolved into insurgency and sectarian violence.

Now Bechtel is leaving. [...]

But Bechtel -- which charged into Iraq with American "can-do" fervor -- found it tough to keep its engineers and workers alive, much less make progress in piecing Iraq back together.

"Did Iraq come out the way you hoped it would?" asked Cliff Mumm, Bechtel's president for infrastructure work. "I would say, emphatically, no. And it's heartbreaking." [...]

At Baghdad's Kerkh sewage plant, Bechtel spent $5.7 million repairing equipment that hadn't worked in months, maybe years. But the plant's location, on the edge of the city, became increasingly dangerous -- turf for Saddam loyalists and criminal gangs. In November 2004, insurgents issued flyers telling the plant's Iraqi workers to stay home or die, according to Bechtel. Not long after, a power failure hit the plant, and the staff didn't turn on the backup generator. The plant stopped working.

"We'd get it completed, and then the Iraqis would all flee, and it'd get mortared," Mumm said. "It would operate for awhile, then the same thing would happen. ... As we sit here today, I don't know if Kerkh is running or not." [...]

Dear Mr. Mumm, please use all of your business and political influence to deliver your message to President George "Mission Accomplished" Bush and Vice President Dick "Last Throes" Cheney. They really need to hear from you and quickly too.

The GOP?

Nature: SF DPH Expert Says UNAIDS "Overestimates" HIV

Pull quote from the current Nature:

"Many of us in the field have suspected that the standard methods of estimation have resulted in overestimates," says Willi McFarland, director of HIV/AIDS Statistics and Epidemiology for the San Francisco Department of Public Health.

My reply: Many of us fags in the Frisco field have long suspected that the standard methods of estimation, concocted by McFarland and DPH, have resulted in overestimates. Why? Two reasons. One, to keep millions of federal dollars flowing from Washington, and two, to scare fags into abstinence.

Before you read the full October 30 Nature article, let's first take a stroll down memory lane and look at some HIV/AIDS stats history and Dr. Willi McFarland, and impact of some claims he made in 2000:

SF Chronicle
June 1, 2000

``We are very concerned, and we are very worried,'' said San Francisco Department of Public Health epidemiologist Dr. Willi McFarland. ``These are sub-Saharan African levels of transmission.''

Bay Area Reporter
July 9, 2000

DPH officials were quoted saying that the estimated number of new infections among gay and bisexual men in San Francisco had gone up from 500 to almost 900. Now, the same officials are singing a different tune.

"The 900 number is not an official DPH number. The comparison to sub-Saharan Africa is unfortunate," Dr. Willi McFarland, an epidemiologist with DPH told the Bay Area Reporter, referring to a quote he gave to the Chronicle: "These are sub-Saharan African levels of transmission."

Boston Bay Windows
July 20, 2000

John Strausbaugh, a columnist for the New York Press, a conservative alternative weekly, wrote in its July 17 edition that the figures were leaked just after Congress announced plans for a cutback in federal AIDS funds to San Francisco, in response to the city's reduced number of AIDS cases. An alarming jump in the HIV rate in San Francisco, with frightening implications for the rest of the nation and the world, makes better copy, and a better fit with the media's self-appointed role as social welfare programmers, than does a group of public health bureaucrats fudging numbers in an effort to save their budget, Strausbaugh wrote.

Bay Area Reporter
August 31, 2000

Get out your abacus, and follow along, if you can. There's some fancy math going on here. [...]

However, upon closer analysis, at least half of Katz's equation on which the much-ballyhooed new estimate and plan are based appears to be highly vulnerable to critical scrutiny. [...] But according to McFarland, who helped formulate the figures, there is a discrepancy.

"It would be fair to say, if you went with the more 'authoritative' source and kept the gay population estimates comparable," McFarland acknowledged to the Bay Area Reporter after reworking the math, "you would go from 336 to 528 [new infections among gay males]."

Very interesting history, if you ask me. Now six years after McFarland touched off a firestorm of controversy over his inflammatory San Francisco = Sub-Saharan African claim, he's telling Nature that there have been overestimates made. Sure, his quote here applies to the rest of the world, but frankly, given this man's statistical history in San Francisco, his quote could easily cover America's AIDS Model City.

Some excerpts from Nature:

Published online: 30 October 2006;
New methods suggest AIDS toll lower than estimated
By Erika Check

There is no doubt that the number of HIV infections worldwide is still on the rise: the toll is up to 40 million, according to UNAIDS. But are scientists using the right method to count the cases?

This year's UNAIDS estimates of the epidemic are lower than those released at the end of last year for 11 southern African countries and for China. And in August, Indian epidemiologists cast doubt on their country's high estimate of HIV cases. [...]

Based on sentinel surveillance, UNAIDS estimates that India has 5.7 million HIV-infected individuals—slightly more than the government estimate of 5.2 million—earning India the unhappy distinction of being the country with the most HIV infections.

But when researchers led by Lalit Dandona, an epidemiologist at the Administrative Staff College of India, ran a population-based survey, their data suggested that the real number could be as low as 3.5 million.

Dandona's group gave HIV tests to as many people as would consent to the study in one district of Andhra Pradesh state. Based on their estimate, only 47,000 people in the district are HIV-positive, less than half of the official estimate of 113,000 people. The team then calculated an adjustment factor for this bias from their data, then applied it to data from other states, arriving at their substantially lower number for the country.

"We were very surprised," says Dandona. "Before we released this to the public, we spent a lot of time making sure we were not underestimating."

Other epidemiologists say that they're not surprised the official estimates are off.

"Many of us in the field have suspected that the standard methods of estimation have resulted in overestimates," says Willi McFarland, director of HIV/AIDS Statistics and Epidemiology for the San Francisco Department of Public Health.

Sentinel surveys are great for tracking trends—to pinpoint sites where infections are rising, for instance—but they're not ideal for predicting absolute numbers, he says.

One explanation for India's overestimate may be that the poor are more likely to be infected than are the wealthy, and a higher proportion of the poor go to public clinics.

Officials are still mulling over the implications of the study. UNAIDS expert Peter Ghys says population-based surveys in other states indicate that the birth clinic HIV rates accurately reflect HIV infections in the general population.

India's National AIDS Control Organisation adds that it is reviewing the methods but is not likely to conduct large population-based surveys because they are too expensive.

Monday, October 30, 2006

SF DPH: New HIV cases peaked in '99; NYT/Sullivan's "When Plagues End"

Not sure how I missed this crucial abstract that was presented a few months back at the global AIDS conference and the incredible admission by our local health officials that new HIV infections hit their summit seven years ago:

2006 Toronto AIDS Conference
Published: August 13, 2006
Title: HIV serosorting? Increases in sexually transmitted infections and risk behavior without concurrent increase in HIV incidence among men who have sex with men in San Francisco
Lead Author: Mitch Katz, MD, SF Department of Public Health

HIV incidence using the serological testing algorithm for recent HIV seroconversion (STARHS) peaked in 1999 at anonymous testing sites (4.1%) and the STI clinic confidential testing program (4.8%), with rates leveling off through 2004.

For those who may have forgotten, the importance of the HIV rate gleaned from such testing programs with this novel test, made the front-page of the New York Times on July 1, 2000, when the paper reported an alleged surge of HIV:

The rise was detected by using a new test developed by the C.D.C. that allows health workers to distinguish between recent H.I.V. infections and those that were acquired months to years ago, [...] When San Francisco health officials learned about the new testing strategy, they moved quickly to apply it in a number of testing sites, [...] known as anonymous testing sites because they provide testing without identifying individuals.

Even though I'm not an HIV/AIDS expert with medical degrees, I still say it is very significant that this city, one of hardest-hit metropolitan areas in the world and one that saw devastation to the gay community in the early days of the crisis, has seen new infections hit their top level, and a relatively long while ago too. But don't expect the NY Times to informed readers of this HIV peak.

Sure, I'd think all the gays and our allies working at the DPH, the many AIDS institutes at UCSF and at the dozens and dozens of AIDS service and HIV prevention groups would herald the peak as not only a public health success, but one that forces all those agencies to give gay men some credit for a remarkable achievement -- containing a plague.

But I can't locate one news releases or reference to the DPH abstract showing the HIV peak on any San Francisco AIDS group's web site.

Let's move on to a larger context, that of AIDS rates, because some of the same researchers who wrote the Toronto abstract also said in 1997 that full-blown AIDS cases here hit a high in 1992:

Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome
Published: November 1, 1997
Title: Projected incidence of AIDS in San Francisco: the peak and decline of the epidemic
Lead Author: Mitch Katz, MD, SF Department of Public Health

The annual number of new AIDS cases is estimated to have peaked at 3332 in 1992, and is projected to decline to 1196 annually by 1998.

My point is that whether I'm examining new HIV infections or AIDS diagnoses for the city, the health department's own studies and epidemiology clearly document that we hit the peak years ago and that over all control and prevention of the plague continues, yet AIDS experts and nonprofit executives do nothing to talk about these peak and decline of a plague.

Not only are Toronto and JAIDS abstract vital to look at when assessing the state of HIV and AIDS here, there is also the latest annual HIV/AIDS statistical report for the city, which sums up the situation nicely:

2005 HIV/AIDS Epidemiology Report
Published: August 28, 2006
Lead Author: Mitch Katz, MD, SF Department of Public Health

The current HIV/AIDS epidemic is characterized by no apparent increases in HIV infection rates over the past five years, and with considerable decreases in some populations.

Like the abstract presented in Toronto, this new annual report was greeted with yawns and silence by the AIDS groups and the local media. Who wants to talk about any sustained good turns in this 25-year-old plague? Certainly no one yet in what is sometimes derisively called AIDS Inc, shorthand for all of the private groups, DPH and UCSF entities. Folks who work in AIDS Inc may fear breaking the silence about HIV/AIDS peaks and declines could end their lucrative careers, or that gays would get the message that we've loving in ways that don't transmit the virus.

At the same time, AIDS Inc, as it has so often in the past, may try to use male rectal gonorrhea rates to undermine reports of HIV drops. The line of reasoning is that because California only recently launched valid HIV tracking with a name-based system, HIV stats for the state and San Francisco may not be the best indicators of true infection rates for the past eight or nine years, so AIDS Inc cites rising male rectal infections to say the rates may equal rising HIV infections.

I must admit seeing the logic of using the rectal gonorrhea rate as a surrogate marker for an HIV rate, however, AIDS Inc often conveniently fails to mention why this rate is up. If you didn't read the minutes of SF Health Commission meetings, you wouldn't know the steep growth of this infection wasn't due just to condom-less sexual activities.

It's because more tests = more cases:

2006 Minutes of the Health Commission
Meeting date: September 25, 2006
Chief of Public Health: Mitch Katz, MD

An analysis of rectal gonorrhea trends in San Francisco revealed that between 2001 and 2005, reported cases of rectal gonorrhea increased more than two-fold, from 213 cases to 461 cases. STD Prevention and Control believes that a large part of this increase can be explained by its expanded rectal screening program and improvements in testing methodologies.

During this time period, the number of rectal GC screening tests supported by the STD Program increased 250%. The percentage of tests submitted by screening program providers other than the STD Clinic increased from 2% (45/2132) of tests in 2001 to 54% (4026/7395) of tests in 2005.

So what does all of this have to do with Andrew Sullivan? A lot, considering his influential November 10, 1996, New York Times Sunday Magazine cover story, "When Plagues End," caused a ruckus among people with AIDS, streets activists, executive directors and public health workers across the USA, all because Andrew believed with the advent of protease inhibitors and other leaps forward in treating AIDS, that he was witnessing the beginning of the end of the American AIDS plague.

To my surprise, the piece lacked enough stats, and this is the most Andrew wrote citing numbers:

Almost overnight, toward the end of 1996, the obituary pages in the gay press began to dwindle. Soon after, the official statistics followed. Within a year, AIDS deaths had plummeted 60 percent in California, 44 percent across the country as a whole.

And he went on to say something that is as true today about AIDS Inc and stats as it was a decade ago, maybe more so:

It was still taboo, of course, to mention this hope [of new drugs] -- for fear it might encourage a return to unsafe sex and new outburst of promiscuity. But, after a while, the numbers began to speak for themselves.

Yes, the numbers from the San Francisco health department speak loudly, if you're listening, and even if you are, it is practically against the law to mention HIV peaks and decline in public.

A decade after "When Plagues End," it's time to revisit such an occurrence happening in San Francisco and to use available hard stats from DPH researchers to consider this idea -- the plague peaked and we need to discuss it to ensure numbers continue declining.

Would that be so terrible?

Sunday, October 29, 2006

10/06 Cheney Slip Up on "Cutbacks;" 10/27 Snow Rejects Veep Slips

There's been a debate lately about whether Dick Cheney slipped up when talking about waterboarding and torture, and the White House is on the defensive, claiming the Veep is not someone who slips when speaking on important American issues. Oh yeah, Mr. Snow? Have you not read the transcript from a speech the Veep made earlier this month?

From the White House web page for the Veep:

Vice President's Remarks at a Luncheon for Vern Buchanan for Congress
Hyatt Sarasota
Sarasota, Florida

October 6, 2006

Above all, ladies and gentlemen, we're going to stay focused on our number one obligation: to protect and defend the people of the United States in this time of war.

After the cutbacks -- excuse me, after the attacks of 9/11,
President Bush told the Congress and the country that we were in for a long struggle against enemies who regard the entire world as a battlefield. He said the fight would be a serious test of our patience and our resolve as a nation. And he was exactly right.

Emphasis added, by the way.

Cutbacks, Mr. Cheney? Of what I wonder. U.S. forces in Iraq perhaps or domestic health programs? The transcript looks to me to be clearly telling us about a slip up, but Mr. Snow would disagree with me.

From Friday's news briefing with Tony Snow:

White House Press Briefing
October 27, 2006

MR. SNOW: Jim, you can bang away as much as you want. I'm telling you what the Vice President's -- I talked to Lea Anne about it. She says no, he wasn't referring to water boarding; he was referring to using a program of questioning -- not talking about water boarding.

Let me put it this way. You got Dick Cheney, who had been head of an intelligence committee. He's been the Secretary of Defense. He's been the Vice President. He's not a guy who slips up, and he's also not a guy who does winks and nods about things that involve matters that you don't talk about for political reasons. Sorry.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Puerto Rican Bush Crony Loses Bid to Delay Starting Fraud Trial

I was catching up on my political reading the other night, and a recent article from In These Times by Conor Kenny about a few of President Bush's bagmen and how they've further corrupted American politics and democracy fascinated me, in part because I'm keeping a list of many of the sleazy GOP politicians and advisors who are doing their part to deliver a GOP defeat at the polls in little more than a week from now.

One person featured in the article, Rene Vazquez Botet, deserves some additional attention and I'm going to do my part to give it to him.

From In These Times:

Vazquez is a former official in Puerto Rico’s New Progressive Party (NPP), whose officials are often allied with the Republican Party. After he served as Bush’s Puerto Rico presidential campaign finance chair in 2000, Bush appointed Vazquez to a Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanic Americans.

In 2004, a federal grand jury indicted Vazquez on charges of conspiracy, extortion and fraud. Vazquez allegedly colluded [...] to demand more than $2 million in kickbacks from construction firms in exchange for using their clout to help secure contracts worth $300 million. The grand jury says that Vazquez received over $300,000 from contractors from 1996 to 1999, [...] the same time Vazquez was likely gearing up his fundraising for Bush’s 2000 campaign. party.

Vazquez, who has pleaded not guilty, faces up to 100 years in prison and $2 million in fines if convicted.

Hmmm, so what's happening with him being brought to trial, you ask? Well, Vazquez and his legal team have not faced a jury yet, in part because they recently filed a motion to have the presiding judge recused. Actually, they've filed two such recusal motions, the most recent of which was dismissed, as was the first. Some legal scholars view such motions as delaying tactics.

From the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit ruling in late September:

Petitioner René Vázquez-Botet, who is awaiting trial on charges of conspiracy, fraud, and extortion, seeks a writ of mandamus ordering the recusal of the presiding district court judge. Because the scheduled start of trial was imminent, this court expedited the hearing on this petition. We then issued a judgment on September 14, 2006 (the day after oral argument), denying the mandamus petition and indicating that an opinion would follow. This is that opinion. In it, we set forth our reasons for withholding relief from petitioner. [...]

Given these circumstances, given the demanding mandamus requirements, and given petitioner’s right “to raise [his] claim of error, if [he] so chooses, in an end-of-case appeal,” In re Cargill, Inc., 66 F.3d at 1264 (footnote omitted), we find the concerns raised here to be insufficient to justify further delay. It is for these reasons that we have denied the petition.

Now, I'm no lawyer, but my interpretation of this ruling is that Vazquez's case is moving closer toward trial, something I am sure the Bush administration is not pleased with. This case, along with dozens of others involving corrupt GOP politicians and their operatives, guarantees that no matter what happens on November 7, GOP sleaze will still be in the news and of concern to political bloggers.

And while the Vazquez mess has not been in the English-language press of late, it sure has been in the news down in Puerto Rico. Click here and also here and here too for a few current samples of articles about his troubles in the Spanish-language press.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Two or Three Reasons to Vote GOP on November 7

(Best viewed using Mozilla Firefox. This is actually the first part of my effort to list as many reasons as possible why people might vote GOP. This posting will be updated soon, and a few times before election day, with all the names of the other folks who belong on this list. So drop by again!
And if you like my blog and advocacy, a tip via PayPal, is always appreciated and needed. PayPal link is below. Now, on to the list of shame and infamy.

Former Vice Presidential advisor Lewis "Scooter" Libby
Indicted by a grand jury, awaiting trial, for his role in the Valerie Plame outing scandal.

Former Food & Drug Administration head Lester Crawford
Pleaded guilty in October to improper financial dealings and holdings while head of the FDA.

Florida's gubernatorial-hopeful Charlie Crist
Like the disgraced Foley, has always denied being gay, but a 21-year-old good-looking male GOP staffer has made claims recently of trysts with Crist.

Sen. George Allen of Virginia

Forgot his mother's Jewish background, uses racist language and slurs, and has a deep, long affection for the Confederate flag.

Sen. Conrad Burns of Montana
Accepted large donations from Jack Abramoff and believes Dubya has a secret plan to win the war in Iraq.

Sen. Bill Frist of Tennessee

Retiring Senate leader is under investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission for insider trading deals.

Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania

Proud homophobe neanderthal who equates gay sex with bestiality and holds sexist views on women and mothers who work.

Ex-Rep. Mark Foley of Florida

Former Congressman liked sending inappropriate emails to young adult male House pages.

Soon-to-be Ex-Rep. Bob Ney of Ohio
Stepping down, after being convicted for accepting illegal gifts from lobbyists, from his House seat after the election.

Ex-Rep. Tom DeLay of Texas
Resigned from the House earlier this year over corruption charges and general stupidty.

Ex-Rep. Duke Cunningham of California

Gave up his House seat last year after his conviction for taking bribes from lobbyists.

Ex-Rep. Ed Schrock of Virginia

After he was caught cruising for gay sex on the web and via phone chat services, gave up his House seat.

Rep. Curt Weldon of Pennsylvania

The Justice Department is investigating him for possibly using his political influence to steer government contracts to his daughter.

Rep. Jean Schmidt of Ohio

Resume-padder, on the floor of the House, accused decorated Marine vet Rep. Jack Murtha of being a coward.

Rep. Don Sherwood of Pennsylvania

He was accused by his mistress of choking and assaulting her, and settled her $5.5 million suit out-of-court.

Rep. Marilyn Musgrave of Colorado

Congresswoman who thinks the biggest problem facing the nation is gays and lesbians seeking equal marriage rights.

Rep. Rick Renzi of Arizona

Federal investigators have opened an inquiry into whether he's used his office to benefit a technology company that employs his father.

Rep. Dave Drier of California

Closeted gay who frequently votes against equality laws for gays and lesbians and rubber stamps Dubya's agenda.

Rep. Jim Gibbons of Nevada

He's accused of making unwanted sexual advances on and assaulting a woman while drunk, and wants to be his state's next governor.

Wannabee-representative Tan Nguyen of California

This Congressional-hopeful and his staff sent intimidating letters to Hispanic voters, attempting to suppress their votes, but he's not dropped of his race.

Convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff

Big-time GOP donor and support on his way to jail for corruption and illegal bribes.

Convicted lobbyist Michael Scanlon

Ex-partner to Abramoff and former spokesman for DeLay, he pleaded guilty last year to bribery charges involving lawmakers.

Failed Lt. Gov. of Georgia candidate Ralph Reed

The former executive director of the Christian Coalition has been deeply implicated, but not indicted, in the Abramoff scandals.

Ex-chief of FEMA Michael D. Brown

Really, must I remind you of the heck of a job he did for New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina?

Ex-DHS deputy spokesman Brian J. Doyle

Former deputy press secretary for homeland security currently awaiting trial on charges of soliciting underage girls for sex on the web.

Ex-Bush & Rove aide Susan Ralston
She resigned from the White House in September over her role in giving access to Abramoff and his clients.

Ex-Bush domestic policy advisor Claude Allen
Left the White House after his arrest for shoplifting, for which he paid a fine.

Ex-GSA chief David Safavian
Convicted former chief of staff for the General Services Administration, found guilty of lying and obstruction.

Dubya's legal advisor Harriet Miers

Supremely unqualified for the highest court in the land, withdrew her nomination last year buy still works at the White House.

GOP head Ken Mehlman

Closet-case Republican uses the gay and lesbian community, not to mention twisting the truth, for political expediency.

Talk-show loud-mouth Rush Limbaugh
Recovering drug addict convicted of doctor shopping to obtain drugs for his habit.

National nanny Bill Bennett
America's lecturer on proper virtues and avoiding vices, admitted he had a gambling habit, supposedly costing him millions in losses in Las Vegas.

Columnist Maggie Gallagher

Didn't disclose in pro-Bush columns that she had a contract with Health & Human Services to promote the GOP agenda on strengthening the family.

Columnist Armstrong Williams

Closeted writer forgot to mention in his pro-Bush pieces that he had a contract with the Education Department to promote the GOP No Child Left Behind agenda.

Columnist Mike McManus

Omitted this fact from his pro-Bush opinion piece: he had contract with Health & Human Services to promote the GOP's marriage agenda.

Reporter Jeff Gannon

Faux-butch, closeted faux-journalist with a pro-Bush agenda whose news agency went out of business when he was revealed to be an escort and sex worker for men.

A Very Important American & His Mag Proudly Stand by Dubya!

Goodness gracious, after much searching for at least one independent U.S. citizen who isn't abandoning our Commander in Chief this election, I've found him. None other than Alfred E. Newman, who is not only staying the course in supporting Dubya, his influential magazine devotes its November cover to him.

In honor of Mr. Newman's loyalty, let's give Miss Tammy Wynette's classic country tune "Stand by Your Man" a spin on the ol' record player:

Sometimes its hard to be a woman
Giving all your love to just one man
You'll have bad times
And he'll have good times
Doing things that you don't understand
But if you love him you'll forgive him
Even though he's hard to understand
And if you love him
Oh be proud of him
'Cause after all he's just a man
Stand by your man
Give him two arms to cling to
And something warm to come to
When nights are cold and lonely
Stand by your man
And tell the world you love him
Keep giving all the love you can
Stand by your man
Stand by your man
And show the world you love him
Keep giving all the love you can
Stand by your man

Monday, October 23, 2006

(Barbara Bush, center, without her pearls.)

Barbara Bush: "Terrible Year" for Republicans

Dubya's mother, Barbara Bush, sometimes known as the Mamma Corleone of the Bush dynasty, spoke some unvarnished truth last week and the Dallas Morning News was there to quote her:

Two of the most popular Republican women in Texas, Barbara Bush and Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, issued dire warnings Tuesday about their party's election prospects.

The former first lady called it a "terrible year" for Republicans.

Said the senator: "This is a tough time for us, make no mistake about it."

Mrs. Bush headlined a $75-per-plate fundraising luncheon at the Hyatt Regency Dallas at Reunion, and the assessments of the bleak landscape facing the GOP came as a dash of cold reality for the hundreds of activists, mostly women, gathered to support the senator's re-election. They expect her to coast to another term, but whether she serves in a Congress controlled by Democrats remains an open question, with war, a page scandal and other problems dragging down the party.

Mrs. Bush drew huge laughs when she pointed out that the senator's Democratic opponent, Democrat Barbara Radnofsky, had derided Ms. Hutchison as an "aging prom queen."

"That," she said, "sounds pretty good to me. I'd like to be a prom queen – aging, fat, whatever they have to say. That's so pathetic. ... Kay Bailey Hutchison is one of the strongest leaders in the United States Senate and is an outstanding emissary for the state of Texas." [...]

Speaking of dragging down the party and queens, shouldn't Mark Foley be getting out of rehab in early November, just days before America votes? You'll recall he went into rehab at the beginning of October and his lawyer said he'd spend at least 30 days in treatment.

Knowing that queen would absolutely die if she weren't in the media limelight for more than a few days, or a week perhaps, I bet it's killing Foley to not be front of the cameras for so long, which is why I wager he'll be out of rehab before the November 7 election.

Please, please, please let Foley successfully complete his rehab and get out of wherever he's holed up prior to the election. Voters will need reminding why the GOP is so good for America.
(Queers shouldn't have to ever look at this image when accessing gay web sites at the SF gay center.)
Censoring SF Gay Center Plans Forum on Cyber Censorship

This is from the executive assistant to the executive director of the SF queer community center:

Hello, Michael –

Thank you for your comments about the Cyber Center policies and programs. We were planning a town hall meeting to discuss the usage and programming of the Cyber Center, and to share our evaluation of the new programs. This was in the works in anticipation of the response we got, both publicly in the press and internally from volunteers and members.

This town hall meeting is being planned today, and we will announce the date and time when we finalize details. We encourage you and others who have feedback about the Cyber Center to attend.

The next Board meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, November 29th, at 7:00pm. It will be held here at The Center, in a room TBA.

Feel free to reply here or give me a call if you have more questions.

Fred Lopez

My reply:

Hey Fred,

Oh, yes, I have some follow up questions, but first allow me to say thanks for your quick reply to my initial concerns. Honestly, I hate being in a reactive mode, but the fact the center installed the censoring filters without first informing the community forces me to adopt a critical stance about how the center operates, namely, without much input from those it is there to serve.

That said, let's move on to my questions and deep concerns.

1) Why did the center feel the filters were necessary?

2) Did the center leaders think they had no responsibility to the community to explain the implementation of censorship on the computers _before_the filters were installed?

3) Tortuga Bi Liberty first raised public attention on this a full month ago. Why is it taking this long for the leaders to hold their town hall meeting?

4)Regarding the next board of directors meeting, I'd like to know the process for a community member to place an item on the agenda, and also how much time is allotted at each board meeting for public comment.

5) Since the time and date of the board meeting are set, why is that information omitted from your site and how soon can you post an announcement for the November 29 venue?

I look forward to raising my serious concerns over the pro-censorship policies adopted by the board and executives at the November board meeting, and really do hope enlightenment on permitting full unimpeded access to all web sites is the rule of operations for San Francisco queer community center's public access computers before the November 29 meeting happens.


Pelosi on Gay Marriage During "60 Minutes" Profile

Mrs. Pelosi's statement sounds to me very much like the Human Rights Campaign position on gay and lesbian marriages.

From "60 Minutes" last night:

Asked about gay marriage, Pelosi says, "Well, that's an issue that is not an issue that we're fighting about here."

Sunday, October 22, 2006

SF Gay Center Computers Ban Access to Gay Sites w/"SiteCoach"

Veteran progressive activist Tortuga Bi Liberty posted this letter a few weeks back on the IndyBay.org site, all about a censorship issue involving gays, but this time it's not rabid homophobes in the GOP or over in Tehran blocking web access to gay sites. Nope, it's the San Francisco gay community center and it's Democratic Party-donating executive director, Thom Lynch, forcing censoring ways on us.

From Tortuga Bi Liberty's letter:

Our San Francisco LGBTI center has installed a censorship program on its public-access computers.

This robot-censor, euphemistically named "Site Coach", blocks access to a recent B.A.R. news report on medical use of cannabis -- because "marijuana" is on its list
of forbidden words and ideas.

I ask B.A.R. to investigate the facts, and publish an objective news story on this matter. I ask the Center to abandon censorship. And I ask all freedom-loving queers and allies to communicate their views to the Center's staff and board. Censorship betrays our LGBTI liberation movements.

Queer fascism isn't okay just because it's queer.

I stopped by the computer lab at the SF gay community center this weekend, just to verify that the center's public access computers are indeed now equipped with SiteCoach and that the program blocks access to "offensive" sites, including gay ones.

It saddens me to report that our local gay center has installed the censoring filter and that it wouldn't allow me to go to some gay sites, including ones with explicit HIV prevention images and messages.

The volunteer staffing the computer lab told me that the center's leader, Thom Lynch, is the person responsible for this development. That would be the same Thom Lynch who donated $1,000 to John Kerry's doomed presidential campaign in 2004.

If someone had tried to convince me I'd see the day when a gay Democratic donor, in his capacity as executive director, would bring a policy of censorship to San Francisco and that there wouldn't be loud objections, I would have laughed.

But that appears to be the case. Neither the gay nor the mainstream press in San Francisco has reported on any of this.

This lack of press and community attention is shocking, especially when considering the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 2001 ban web filters for the computers in the city's public libraries! Read the AP story about that Board of Supes ban here.

And if you're against such web filters being used at the SF gay center, call Thom Lynch and complain to him. The number at the center is: (415) 865-5555 .

Friday, October 20, 2006

US Says Iraqi Police "Spoil Attack" that Killed 10 Civilians

Here's a classic example of a headline for a US military news release not meeting the reality of the body of the release. The headline boldly claims the Iraqi police spoiled an assault by terrorists, but the release is actually about two truck bombs exploding near a police station. (Maybe the military defines spoil as the trucks not blowing up at the police station's front door step?)

Eleven Iraqis were killed, as were two insurgents and fifteen civilians suffered wounds. As if that weren't enough, the release also states the local police had to contend with small arms fire during the course of the morning.

If this is how Iraqi police spoil a terrorist attack, meriting a news release, what the hell sort of release does the military put out when the insurgent attacks are not spoiled by the local police?

The services and insight of Mr. Orwell are very much needed these days.

From the US military:

RELEASE No. 20061020-07
Oct. 20, 2006

Iraqi Police spoil terrorist attack


MOSUL, Iraq – Iraqi police remained vigilant in the face of a complex attack in Mosul Thursday.

Al Qaeda in Iraq forces attacked the Abi Tamaam Police Station in east Mosul Thursday at approximately 7:00 a.m. with two suicide truck bombs. The first truck bomb exploded near the station’s entry control point, blowing down protective walls and creating a sizeable crater in the road. The second truck, unable to penetrate the police station’s perimeter due to the crater and debris left over from the first truck bomb detonated in the street.

As a result of the attack, 10 Iraqi civilians and one Iraqi Policeman were killed while nine IPs and 15 Iraqi civilians were wounded. Two AIF were killed in the attack.

“The Iraqi police took the brunt and stood their ground,” said Col. Steve Townsend, commander, 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, Task Force Lightning. “We’re immensely proud of their resilience.”

Later in the morning two other SVBIEDs targeting Coalition Forces exploded, wounding two Soldiers and causing minor damage to two Stryker vehicles. The wounded were treated and returned to duty. Two additional AIF were killed in the second attack.

Iraqi Army and Coalition Forces supported the IPs who were targeted with indirect and small arms fire throughout the morning.

Coalition Forces launched an engineer team to the police station to clear the destroyed vehicles, repair the road crater and rebuild the wall.

“We wanted to show our solidarity after their heroic stand,” Townsend said.

Thursday’s series of attacks on the IPs in Mosul came a week after ISF responded in support of CF who had been targeted by a series of complex attacks by AIF.

(Carl Romanelli, the man Dan Savage wanted dead.)

Chicago Reader: "Mouthy Idiot" Savage on Death Wish for a Green

The media critic for the Chicago Reader, Michael Miner, has penned an excellent story this week about Dan Savage endorsing the violent death of Carl Romanelli, a Green candidate, then retracting his stupid call for Romanelli to die like James Byrd.

From Miner's column:

Dan Savage, author of the syndicated advice column Savage Love, which runs in the Reader, was in Philadelphia last week, and he was interviewed on camera by Stephen Morse of the Daily Pennsylvanian. [...] He and Savage talked about the state's U.S. Senate race, where conservative Democrat Bob Casey is challenging incumbent Republican Rick Santorum and the Green Party's Carl Romanelli is a wild card. Morse reported that Savage told him that "the Green party and its supporters are tools and fools for the Republicans and the radical right" and that "Carl Romanelli should be dragged behind a pick-up truck until there's nothing left but the rope."

Savage's prescription recalled one of the most notorious hate crimes in recent U.S. history, the murder of a middle-aged black man, James Byrd Jr., in Jasper, Texas, in 1998.

Savage has a knack for being wildly but forgivably offensive, but this time it failed him. Gay blogger Michael Petrelis of San Francisco picked up Morse's story and commented, "While the GOP has to put up with the ranting of Ann Coulter, the Democrats are blessed with gay journalist Dan Savage, [who] is so keen to elect a Democrat to replace the truly nutty and homophobic Rick Santorum, he advocates violence against a Green Party leader in Pennsylvania." [...]

At Seattle's Stranger, where Savage is the editor, most readers who weighed in on its blog indulged him. Even so, to his credit Savage apologized. "Here's the diff between me and Coulter," he wrote. "I regret using that truck metaphor, and didn't mean it literally, and it was in poor taste, and I regret it. [...] But the Green in the race there is scum, and should be slapped -- just slapped -- and slapped hard. Not literally, though. No violence."

Savage told me he'd been a "mouthy idiot." He said, "I kind of regretted the words as they left my mouth." Petrelis is someone "I like and respect, and if he wants to let me have it, let it come."

But I'm not so sure I want to be liked and respected by you, Dan! Frankly, I wish you liked and respected American democracy more and understood that our country can easily survive challenges to the two-party system.

To learn more about Romanelli and his campaign, click here.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

("Dan Coulter" taking aim at Greens! Duck!)

Dan Savage's Tepid Apology for Advocating Violent Death of A Green

Maybe I should not admit this on my blog, considering how intolerant and hateful Savage is towards Greens, and his calls for violence to be perpetrated on Greens, but I am a registered Green and will be voting for every candidate my party has on the California ballot in November, and my votes on the ballot initiatives will be cast as the Green Party has recommended.

Having said that, I'll keep an eye over my shoulder, for the likes of Savage and his fellow Democrats, who think America and our special democracy is so week it can only survive and thrive if there are just two political parties.

Savage is going to hate me for saying this, but I genuinely believe America is such a great nation and its people so wonderful, that the country will be even more fabulous, if Green candidates weren't kept off the ballot or out of political debates by fearful, hateful Democrats.

I'll give Savage some (micro) credit for his tepid apology on his paper's blog, but I think in his abusive Ann Coulter-esque heart, he really would like to see Green candidates and voter dead.

From the blog at the Stranger:

Now, anyone doing anything that might help keep Santorum in the Senate pisses me right off. That’s my only excuse for using an image that was, well, violent and uncalled for and disrespectful while discussing Romanelli. Here it is:

> Carl Romanelli should be dragged behind a pickup truck until there’s nothing left but the rope.

Today blogger Michael Petrelis slapped me around for making the comment. And rightly so. It wasn’t kosher, and it was especially disrespectful of the memory of James Byrd Jr., a black man who was lynched in Texas in 1998 by being dragged behind a pickup truck. [...]

For the record: It was a stupid, shitty thing to say. And I would like the record to show that I did a very un-Coulter-like thing on October 12 before anyone beat me up for saying it: I withdrew the crack and apologized for it. From a Slog post on October 12:

> You know, I just got off the plane and I haven’t watched the video. But here’s the diff between me and Coulter: I regret using that truck metaphor, and didn’t mean it literally, and it was in poor taste, and I regret it. [...]

Wait a minute… did I apologize or did I just “regret”? And were my regrets posted prominently enough on the Slog? They weren’t in their own post, just attached to another post in a comment thread. So that’s why I’m writing this post…

I’m sorry about that comment, and I regret it.

But I still hate that Romanelli bastard. And, hey, if I am Ann Coulter’s “political twin,” as Petrelis claims, how come I don’t make the money she does?

Okay, Dan, you still despise the Green, but would it have cost you too much to apologize for advocating Romanelli's death, by directly saying you're sorry to him?

(Photo credit: anncoulter.org)
(Dan Savage, Ann Coulter's political twin.)

Journalist Savage, Democratic Donor, Advocates Death for PA Green Candidate

While the GOP has to put up with the ranting of Ann Coulter, the Democrats are blessed with gay journalist Dan Savage, whose weekly sexual advice column runs in many alternative newspapers. Savage is so keen to elect a Democrat to replace the truly nutty and homophobic Rick Santorum, he advocates violence against a Green Party leader in Pennsylvania and Green voters.

In an interview with a writer from the Daily Pennsylvanian last week, Savage had this to say about a Green Party candidate: "Carl Romanelli should be dragged behind a pickup truck until there's nothing left but the rope."

If Savage ever tires of his writing career and life in Seattle, he might consider joining a political supremacist group. I hear they still exist in Texas and always need new recruits to spew hatred against people they don't like:

In June of 1998, a sadistic murder of a middle-aged black man from Jasper, Texas, rekindled memories of lynching practices from the blood stained American past. James Byrd, Jr., 49, was beaten savagely to the point of unconsciousness, chained to the back of a pickup truck by his neck, and dragged for miles over rural roads outside the town of Jasper. It is believed that Byrd survived through most of this experience, that is, until he was decapitated.

Here's what ran in the Daily Pennsylvanian, along with a link to the interview with Savage advocating death and violence against Greens:

Columnist says candidate should be 'dragged behind a pickup truck'
By Stephen Morse
DailyPennsylvanian.com, October 12, 2006

For those who need a primer on the senate race before watching the film, here are the players discussed by Mr. Savage:

Sen. Rick Santorum: As the senate's number three man, he is either hated or loved, depending on who you ask. Santorum is known as a quintessential right-winger.

Bob Casey: Son of former Pennsylvania governor Bob Casey Sr. and currently running against Santorum for his senate seat.

Carl Romanelli: Though he was tossed off the ballot two weeks ago by Commonwealth Court Judge(and former Democratic State Senator) James R. Kelley, Romanelli is still fighting a legal battle to get back on the ballot. Romanelli has little political experience. Democrats tend to hate him because should he be allowed back on the
ballot, he could serve as a 'spoiler' for the Republicans. It is widely known that individual Republicans provided the financial support to get Mr. Romanelli's campaign off the ground.

Some of Savage's quotes from the Daily Pennsylvanian interview:

- "Carl Romanelli should be dragged behind a pickup truck until there's nothing left but the rope." (2:41)

- "The Green party and its supporters are tools and fools for the republicans and the radicial right." (2:50)

- "Any progressive who votes for a Green anymore after Nader and now Romanelli is a fucking idiot and should be beaten with sticks." (3:05)

- "Romanelli may want to 'rim my ass three times a week, that doesn't make him better for me. And it doesn't make his presence on the ballot better for me than a Casey victory." (3:31)

- "Mr. Romanelli should go fuck himself." (4:00)

- "If Carl Romanelli gets back on the ballot, someone should run him over with a truck." (5:22)

And people say the GOP is intolerant! Donors like Dan Savage, who only give to Democrats, could teach the Republicans in how to be accepting of political opponents. Savage's donations, as posted on Newsmeat.com:

Senate - CT

Senate - PA

Savage, Dan
Seattle, WA 98122
The Stranger/Writer
House (WA 08)

Savage, Dan
Seattle, WA 98101
The Stranger/writer

(Photo credit: Jori Klein, Philadelphia Daily News.)